Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Another honour for Poonawallamumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2018 17:20 IST
Cyrus S Poonawalla (second from right).
“To all to whom these presents shall come, greetings, be it known that we hereby confer upon Cyrus S Poonawalla in recognition of distinguished attainments the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters”, and with these words, amidst what is described as repeated standing ovations, celebrated Pune-based industrialist and philanthropist Dr Poonawalla was conferred yet another honour in his glittering career, at a function organised by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester this Sunday, for his contribution towards providing vaccines at affordable prices, which have saved the lives of more than 20 million children across the world, according to the WHO. “The Serum Institute of India, and MassBiologics (Boston, USA), have collaborated to develop the first-ever Rabies Human Monoclonal Antibody that has several advantages over the available equine and human plasma-derived product,” said a spokesperson from the institute, about the degree which had been given not only in the light of this development, but for the years of yeoman service that the Pune-based company under Poonawalla’s leadership had done to address global health needs. With this, the billionaire who has successfully combined a sustainable business model with the philanthropy of delivering life-saving products, joins the likes of former US President Barack Obama, and Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, WHO have received the honour in the past. Interestingly, in keeping with his preference for a low-profile, behind-the-scenes performance, the affable workaholic was characteristically modest about this latest recognition. “At the end of the day, my happiness comes from the fact that I am able to make a positive change in the world, especially in the lives of children,” he said from Prague after receiving the honour.
For months now, cocktail party corporate circles have been speculating about the motive behind the “shareholder-activist” whistleblower who had trained his guns on a high-profile bank and its CEO who allegedly used her position to garner large investments in businesses run by her family. What could be the reason for such a systematic take down, people wondered. And, was the whistleblower acting on his own or standing on someone else’s shoulders to fire his gun? Many theories were offered: from disgruntled employees to corporate rivalries, to businessmen who’d been rubbed the wrong way by the banker. Now, the grapevine has more to chew on: apparently, no sooner had the announcement of an internal inquiry about the allegations being conducted by the bank’s board had made the news, the same activist whistleblower trained his guns onto a new target, this time, a private airline whose well-connected NRI chairman has been under scrutiny for a while about the company’s funding. “Everyone is putting two and two together to try and guess what the common link between the bank and the airline is, to try and arrive at the motives for these well-planned takedowns,” said a corporate watcher, adding, “If the recent example is anything to go by, the letters alleging financial impropriety will soon make their way into public domain and finally to the right authorities, when things will begin to unravel.” Will we witness another high-profile implosion? Watch this space.
What They Say —
“Heavy rainfall can be expected in Mumbai on Thursday, June 7.”
— The weather bureau on the much-awaited monsoon
What They Mean —
“Well, our office peon’s aunt’s cousin’s left earlobe has started to itch, and that’s always the most reliable and dependable precursor of rain, so right now, that’s what we’re going with.”
If there’s any doubt that literary impresario and columnist Anil Dharker is making hay while the sun shines, consider this: the past few weeks have seen the impassioned culture vulture meet the likes of Margaret Atwood, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Pullman and even Benedict Cumberbatch during the course of his attendance at the prestigious annual litfest in England. However, it was his outing with old friend (they had dreamt up a books on the beach idea not too long ago) Shashi Tharoor that appears to have been the high point of his trip. “Our session was held on Sunday, the last day of the festival, and although, competing in the identical time slot with the great philosopher AC Grayling, we had a full house,” he informs. Dharker had begun by asking if Tharoor had turned to religion after roasting the British Empire in his last book. (“After all, no one suspected man about town Shashi Tharoor of having the slightest interest in Hinduism,”) he said in an aside, adding, “But of course the book is a rebuttal of the warped idea of religion being propagated by Hindutva bhakts.” Apparently , the conversation, though serious as the subject demanded, was lightened by anecdotes and observations, especially when Dharker had asked Tharoor if he believed in reincarnation, and if so what he would like to be reborn as. Tharoor’s response, we are informed, had been an enigmatic smile.